CMO Council Research Reveals Battle for Balance Between Efficiencies of Centralization and Effectiveness of Localization as Marketers Eye Operational Shifts Needed to Reach Global Growth Goals

Chief Marketing Officers are suffering from an intense case of FOMO – the Fear of Missed Opportunities – as customers seek more localized, personalized experiences that are relevant to their own cultural context and situation. There is ample reason to understand the anxiety: Only 10 percent of brand leaders are feeling exceedingly confident they will be able to reach their customer engagement and revenue goals.

According to the CMO Council’s new report, Reshaping Global Engagement Operations, today’s customer is seeking security, service and localized experiences based on local language and culture. Unfortunately, 73 percent of global marketers feel only partially prepared to deliver, settling for a “win-some/lose-some” position as their organizations transition to meet the needs of the modern, digitally-connected customer.

The report, produced in partnership with Worldwide Partners, a global network of independent advertising and marketing services agencies, reveals that marketing operational structures may actually be keeping the customer and brand apart. Marketers admit that:

  • They are missing the localization mark before campaign deployment by engaging in the dark: 82 percent say local market intelligence is just “OK”; 10 percent admit their local intelligence is actually highly deficient

  • Without access to repositories of local intelligence, they will continue to miss opportunities: 57 percent believe lack of localized market insight has had a negative impact; 37 percent believe the lack of local knowledge is partially to blame for stalled relationship development initiatives

Organizational structures may be partially to blame for the intelligence gap. The study investigated three specific operational structures: fully centralized (27 percent), fully decentralized (30 percent), and hybrid structures (30 percent) with local teams executing on strategies from a centralized leadership group.

  • Thirty eight percent of marketers operating in a fully centralized organizational structure believe that efficiency of spend and allocation is their top benefit. The downside to the model, according to 37 percent of respondents, is a lack of local market understanding and proximity to the customer.

  • Thirty five percent of marketers in a fully decentralized organization say the top benefit is the elimination of corporate politics over execution and decision-making. Forty-eight percent admit the top drawback is not having a clear vision of the brand engagement strategy.

  • According to marketers in hybrid operational structures, the top three benefits of their operations include a heightened understanding of the local customer, a crystal-clear understanding of strategy and goals, as well as heightened efficiency that optimizes impact of spend. Drawbacks still pop up, but are largely centered around timeliness of decision-making across the organization.

“Chief Marketers embarked on organizational transformation in the name of efficiencies. Modern CMOs must now refine that transformation in the name of the customer,” notes Liz Miller, SVP of Marketing with the CMO Council. “We fought hard to bring rigor and accountability to operations. Now we are asking old processes and operational structures to align with a customer that doesn’t see silos or functions. They just understand their own context and reality, steeped in culture and spoken in their own language.”

Resource and operational alignment issues extend to the dynamics between brand and agency partners. Only 17 percent of marketers believe their operational models totally aligned with their agency partners, forcing some leaders to question the value and the impact of the relationship. This has led marketers to look for partners with the ability to scale quickly, be in closer alignment with business goals, and be a resource for skills and new capabilities around the globe.

This is not to say that CMOs are planning an agency exodus in 2019. Agencies can breathe a bit easier as 64 percent of respondents believe their relationships with current partners will stay in place over the next 12 to 18 months. Those who do foresee shifts anticipate they will bring content marketing (28 percent), customer intelligence (26 percent) and demand generation (21 percent) in-house. Functions likely to shift externally include public relations (21 percent), advertising creative development (24 percent), media buying (21 percent), and live event and experiential engagements (26 percent).

“Solving the localization gap is a matter of structure, not intent. This is a call to action for marketers and agencies alike,” notes John Harris, President and CEO of Worldwide Partners, Inc. “Marketers want customer-centric solutions on a global scale, but they cannot get there with a centralized strategy and top-down approach that prioritizes standardization over localization. They need to structure for market-inspired experiences in order to deliver personalized, contextualized and culturally relevant experiences effectively and efficiently. Otherwise they’ll miss opportunities, undermine brand perception and compromise business results.”

The 62-page report is based on a pulse of over 350 senior global marketing leaders conducted via an online survey in the first and second quarter of 2019. It includes:

  • Top areas of strategic focus for the global marketing organization

  • CMO confidence in localization capabilities across the organization

  • Key challenges and roadblocks to localization and engagement success

  • Steps for agency-brand evolution including key responsibilities of the CMO in reshaping the relationship and new expectations for agency partners

  • Detailed overview of internal versus external resource shifts, allocations and alignments

The comprehensive report of findings is now available for purchase ($199 USD) and download at This full report includes all detailed analysis of findings, 27 detailed charts and graphs, deep-dive interviews with brand leaders, and two exclusive in-depth read-outs on agency partnership evolution and a breakdown of regional views and differences only available in the comprehensive report. Thanks to support from Worldwide Partners, a complimentary executive summary is also available to download.


About the CMO Council

The Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council is the only global network of executives specifically dedicated to high-level knowledge exchange, thought leadership and personal relationship building among senior corporate marketing leaders and brand decision-makers across a wide range of global industries. The CMO Council's 15,000-plus members control approximately $500 billion in aggregated annual marketing expenditures and run complex, distributed marketing and sales operations worldwide. In total, the CMO Council and its strategic interest communities include more than 65,000 global executives in more than 110 countries covering multiple industries, segments and markets. For more information, visit

About Worldwide Partners

Worldwide Partners, Inc. (WPI) is one of the largest and fastest-growing networks of independent advertising and marketing communications agencies in the world, comprised of over 70 independent agencies located in 40 countries across Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and North America. WPI offers brand marketers a customized, multinational service platform built to ensure the effective implementation of global marketing principles within a local market context to optimize marketing efficiency and to maximize business return. Whether you operate within a centralised or decentralised business model, WPI provides brand marketers with an operational framework engineered for seamless collaboration without the friction that occurs within consolidated, agency holding company environments. WPI’s partner agencies manage over $5 billion in worldwide advertising expenditures. For more information about Worldwide Partners visit